The online “Green Guide” announced yesterday by Printing Industries of America contains an unexpected gem: a chapter on do-it-yourself public relations for successful story placement with the news media.

Chapter 9—“How to Write a Press Release...and Get it Printed”—is a step-by-step guide to crafting news releases and convincing editors to pick them up. It’s specific to environmental stories, but the techniques it presents can be applied to any kind of news that a printing company wants to share.

There’s workmanlike advice on story hooks, format and style, headlines, subheads, leads, the famous 5 Ws, subsequent paragraphs, company boilerplate, contact information, and—above all—pitching what you’ve written to editors. This editor can say that if more of the thousands of press releases he’s handled over the years had followed these guidelines, more of them would have seen the light of day in the media they were intended for.

Because the “Green Guide” (its full title is The Green Guide for Graphic Communications: Growing and Profiting through Sustainability) is exclusively for members of PIA, Chapter 9 can’t be quoted extensively here. But its common-sense flavor come through in statements like these:

“Earned media is not a misnomer—you really do have to work hard to earn the ‘free ink’ that you seek in newspapers and trade publications. That's the bad news. The good news is that you don’t have to hire an expensive public relations firm to get your good news in print—if you're willing to follow a few simple rules.”

“If you want to increase the chances of your press release being published (and you do), you're going to have to think like an editor...You will need to write a really good story and present it in a way that will be of interest and relevance to the editor and his or her readers. You will need an angle—a 'baited hook' that no reasonable editor can resist biting.”

“To the company’s owners, this story is huge. To the typical editor, however, it is just another lackluster story about an internal business decision.” (Spot on—this is precisely how p.r.-avalanched editors tend to think. Keep reading this section for tips on changing the perception in the source’s favor.)

Personally, I wouldn’t be as quick to write off the need for p.r. firms and editorial consultants, particularly if the goal is to conduct a sustained and measurable media campaign. But with the help of Chapter 9 of the “Green Guide,” any printing company can turn its accomplishments in sustainability or any other area into genuinely newsworthy stories that editors will want to share with their audiences. If you’re a member of PIA, log onto the “Green Guide” today.